Warren County

Warren County students will benefit from $31K seized by Foristell police

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 2/15/24

The Foristell MO police department seized more than $31,000 during a traffic stop in 2017. The money was given to the Warren County treasurer to be divided among six local school districts.

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Warren County

Warren County students will benefit from $31K seized by Foristell police


Sometimes, crime does pay – or at least positively benefit a community.

Students in Warren County will benefit from the seizure of more than $31,000 by the Foristell Police Department, as that money will be distributed to the six school districts that cover Warren County.

Foristell Police Chief Douglas Johnson brought the actual cash to the Warren County Administration Building on Feb. 13, and spread it out in the main floor lobby.

“That’s what $31,540 in U.S. currency looks like in various denominations,” Johnson said.

The money was seized back on April 17, 2017. That’s when a Foristell officer observed a 2016 GMC Terrain being driven by Joana Guadalupe Perez, of Denver, Colo., commit lane violations on the North Service Road on the west side of Foristell in Warren County.

The officer pulled Perez over as part of a routine traffic stop.

Perez showed all the signs of being a drug runner, Johnson said, which included having a 1-year-old child with her in the car.

She was also driving a 2016 vehicle that already had more than 50,000 miles on it in less than a year.

During the traffic stop in Foristell, the officer smelled marijuana.

“In 2017, possession of marijuana was illegal,” Johnson said. “And so the odor or marijuana gave him consent to do the search.”

During the search, he found a plastic bag with marijuana, some other paraphernalia, a backpack, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch box.

“He asked permission to open it, and the driver refused to give consent,” Johnson said. “The officer said he was just going to seize it and the driver did give consent.”

When the officer opened the lunch box, he found $31,450 in U.S. currency, ranging from $1 bills to $100s.

“When we questioned her, she confessed that she was coming back from Tennessee,” Johnson said. “She ultimately confessed there was money in there and it was for somebody back in Denver, Colo., where she was from and she was taking the money back. So the indications are that she’s probably been a runner for quite some time.”

Johnson said that while the amount of money seized was rare, it’s typical to see Interstate 70 used to transport drugs and money. He said most of the drugs go east and the money heads west.

It was that money from the Foristell stop that Johnson and Sgt. Kyle Bartholmey brought to the county building, almost seven years after it was seized. The officers turned the money over to Warren County Treasurer Jeff Hoelscher, who said he will deposit the money in a bank account before it is distributed to the six school districts in October.

Judge Jason Lamb ruled in 2022 that the seizure was appropriate.

“I’ve been treasurer for nine years, and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this,” Hoelscher said.

Hoelscher said there is a formula he will use to determine how much of the seized money each school district will receive.

He also took steps to ensure the money stayed in Warren County if the courts ruled the money had to be forfeited.

“Under Missouri law, if you are transporting drugs and the money is presumed to be drug money, then we can do an asset forfeiture through the county prosecutor in this case,” Johnson said. “Foristell chose to file the charges at the state level knowing that the money, if awarded, would benefit the school districts within Warren County.”

Johnson said it was important to him that the seized money benefit Warren County students.

“I think it’s very good that it goes to the school districts,” he said. “Who else but to invest in our kids and our future. … I’m happy to give it up.”

About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at jason@warrencountyrecord.com

foristell, police, warren county, drug, money